Final Contest

St Laurence, Reading

Saturday 23 June 1979

Test Piece: 528 Cambridge Surprise Maximus (marked Middle to Home)

Judges: J Alan Ainsworth (Chief), Stanley Darmon, Jean Darmon


St Martin's Guild (Birmingham) Win Again

Well-organised 12-bell Competition Held In Reading

As briefly recorded in our last issue, the popular 12-bell Striking Competition, held this year on June 23 at St Laurence's Church, Reading, was won for the third consecutive year by St Martin's Guild, Birmingham. The interest shown in this event continues to incite popularity, and the 300-400 ringers and supporters who travelled from various parts of the country were rewarded with a fine day, excellent striking by the eight bands competing and near-perfect organisation which made this social occasion the highlight of the ringing year.

The 23 cwt. 12 bells were up and checked by Reading ringers by 11.30 am, and the judges (Alan Ainsworth and Stanley and Jean Darmon, of Chesham and Amersham) were in position on the top of a building society's premises opposite the church where, we understand, the acoustics were perfect (aircraft permitting). At 11.45 the draw for ringing order took place in St Laurence's Church and at noon the first team took their place for a three minutes practice before the actual test piece commenced.

The stewards appointed ensured that each team was ready and everything proceeded smoothly, the "church-yard critics" in groups around the area listening intently to every change. Naturally, the church being situated in a busy shopping area, the public were curious to know what was going on; many were the questions asked. The hostelries nearby also did excellent business.

By 4.15, when the last team were well on the way to completing their test piece, the majority of the other ringers and supporters had moved to the Berkshire C.C. staff restaurant some 400 yards away, where a licensed bar had been operating since 3 pm. A salad tea was served to the 200 who had booked the meal, whilst many others were also refreshing themselves inside and outside the modern building, all awaiting the arrival of the judges to announce their findings.

The meals all served, the crockery cleared, the chief organiser, Noel (Jim) Diserens endeavoured to make himself heard and, after welcoming the company, introduced the incumbent of the joint parishes of St Laurence and St Mary (Rev. Gerald Restall) who greeted the visiting ringers and their friends. He said he was very pleased to have the opportunity of thanking the ringers on behalf of the many parishes for their contribution to the work of the Church.

Mr Paul Taylor, the president of the competition, thanked the Vicar of St Laurence, the judges, the organisers, the tea hostesses and the stewards and others who had in any way contributed to the day's events, which had been outstandingly successful in every way.

Explaining the method of marking, Stan Darmon said it was a wonderful feeling to have such power without responsibility [laughter]. He said he and his wife had enjoyed the excellent ringing as well as the splendid view from the top of the building where they had been comfortably ensconced.

Alan Ainsworth then gave details of his own method of the marking of each team - presentation and style - and proceeded to give his comments. He did not, of course, know the order of ringing as he pronounced judgment, but we give these in parentheses. Team 1 (Reading) had trung at a brisk pace and a peal of 5042 changes would have been completed in 3 hr 13 min. They had accumulated 135 faults. Team 2 (College Youths) rang with a measured beat and at a slower pace, and a peal would take 3 hr 30 min (78 faults). There was considerable "syncopation" in the 3rd team's effort (Cumberlands): 3 hr 28 min (125 faults).

Team 4 (Birmingham) had rung steadily and consistently throughout, and a peal would have taken 3 hr 22 min (65 faults) whilst the next participants (Cambridge U G) had had a "bumpy" run, rather fast ringing (3 hr 12 min and 147 faults). The 6th team (Leicester) had unfortunately tumbled over themselves with irregular leading (3 hr 14 min) accumulating 233 faults.

Team number 7 (St Paul's Cathedral) had attained a slow but steady pace throughout, although towards the end there was a little deterioration (3 hr 36 min and 68 faults). The final team went off at a cracking pace which was almost breathless, but they kept at it and at the end had 119 faults (3 hr 11 min).

Mr Paul Taylor then took up a sheet of paper with what he thought contained the final placings: "Oh, this is the bill for the day!" he exclaimed amidst laughter. He then presented an envelope containing the winning certificates for each of the team members to Mr John McDonald (Master, St Martin's Guild), who said how delighted he was that they had again been successful. He thanked the organisers and judges for their work and asked that Roddy Pipe accept the Challenge Trophy as he had been the conductor of the winning teams for the past three occasions.

Congratulating Roddy, Paul Taylor then handed to him the shield amidst the applause and cheers of the assembly and then, holding it aloft, Roddy thanked all concerned and added, amidst laughter, that he was pleased that Alan Ainsworth, who was a former Birmingham ringer, still recognised good striking when he heard it.

Each team leader came forward and received an envelope containing the completed certificates for each member of his band. Various announcements regarding further ringing arrangements that evening were given out, and it was stated that next year's event would be in York on June 21. If an eliminating contest was necessary this would be at Southwark in March.

Andrew Wilby (Master, A.S.C.Y.) on behalf of the competing teams, expressed appreciation to the Reading ringers for the excellent arrangements made, and to Jim Diserens, his committee and stewards for their hard work organising the event. Only those who had had experience in such events knew the amount of time required to deal with all that was required for the success of such a venture.

The meeting loudly applauded.

Organisers and Helpers

The organising committee consisted of four members: N J Diserens (who was responsible for publicity, and who acted as M.C.), D P Hilling, F W Lewis and W Sidwell. The team organiser was B Gatward, whose stewards were C Lewington, Elsie Smith, H Smith, S Scott, G Scott, J Harmsworth, E J Wells and J Milford, with R Harris generally assisting. The judges were assisted by J Daniells, the tea helpers were supervised by Margaret Hilling, the bar I Parnell, the raffle Ann Osborne and the scribe (certificates) F W Lewis.

When Concorde flew over Reading at noon the judges were unable to hear the bells for a short while, and when another went over soon after 3 pm, the judge commented: "I didn't know British Airways had two Concordes!" [Laughter]

One steward listening to the ringing was asked by a group of lady shoppers what was going on and why were so many people standing around. When told of the event and what was taking place they seemed to be relieved that they would not be delayed. They thought a member of the Royal Family was passing through Reading!

When the president announced that the Derby team had attained 4th place he added: "We have a special delight in finding that Derby did so well, for they have no 12-bell rings in their diocese on which to practise", which comment received sustained applause.

A raffle, proceeds of which were used towards the heavy expenses of the competition, was drawn by Brian Gatward and Ann Osborne (the organiser) whilst awaiting the competition results. There were over 20 prizes and there were jeers and hissing when the first lucky number was that held by David Hilling!

A fine, large teddy-bear was passed over by at least a dozen of the lucky ticket holders. When young David Pipe's number was drawn, however, he was well applauded as he went to choose his prize. He was cheered loudly as he took the teddy-bear - for his young sister!

[RW Pg 607 July 13 1979]